Marques « collectives » : les 6 changements majeurs de la loi PACTE

La loi n° 2019-486 du 22 mai 2019 relative à la croissance et la transformation des entreprises dite « loi Pacte » vient réformer l’organisation très spécifique des marques anciennement dites « collectives simples » et « collectives de certification ».

Le choix de l’un ou l’autre de ce type de marques n’est pas anodin et notamment pour l’exploitation de la marque. Il doit faire l’objet d’une nouvelle réflexion de fond et donc d’arbitrages à faire.

Dans ce cadre, il est important de retenir les 6 changements majeurs suivants :

1- Coexistence de 4 types de marques

Une marque collective simple ou de certification déposée avant l’entrée en vigueur de la Loi Pacte du 9 décembre 2019, demeure régie par les dispositions des articles dans leur rédaction antérieure à celles du décret.

Il n’y a donc pas de processus de transition mais la mise en place d’un double régime avec quatre types de marques :

  • Marque Collective Simple (Régime 1)
  • Marque Collective de Certification (Régime 1)
  • Marque Collective (Régime 2)
  • Marque de garantie (Régime 2)

2- Une accessibilité en apparence plus souple

  • La marque de garantie n’est plus liée au concept de certification : les personnes physiques et les personnes morales y compris de droit public ont accès à ce nouveau type de marque.

En revanche, les syndicats ne devraient pas pouvoir déposer une telle marque.

  • La marque collective, de son côté, est réservée aux seules associations et groupements dotés de la personnalité morale représentant des fabricants, des producteurs, des prestataires de services ou des commerçants, ainsi que toute personne morale de droit public.

Ainsi, les particuliers et les sociétés commerciales en sont exclus.

3- Le règlement d’usage : outil incontournable pour le dépôt et l’exploitation des marques

  • Qu’elle soit de garantie ou collective, les marques doivent être déposées avec un règlement d’usage. Toute modification du règlement d’usage doit être inscrite au RNM.
  • Pour la marque de garantie, le règlement doit indiquer la manière dont le titulaire qui n’est pas un organisme de certification, délivre la garantie, vérifie les caractéristiques des produits et services et surveille l’usage de la marque.

Pour les organismes de certification, le règlement d’usage doit, en plus, mentionner l’attestation d’accréditation.

  • Pour la marque collective, règlement d’usage doit notamment indiquer les personnes autorisées à utiliser la marque et les conditions d’usage de la marque, y compris les sanctions.

4- Possibilité de céder la marque

La marque de garantie est désormais cessible et transmissible. Par ailleurs, si elle a cessé d’être protégée, elle, peut être, à nouveau déposée.

5- Motifs de nullité supplémentaires liés au règlement d’usage/ à l’exploitation

Qu’elle soit de garantie ou collective, la marque peut être attaquée en nullité lorsque son règlement d’usage est contraire à l’ordre public.

La marque peut être déclarée nulle lorsqu’elle risque d’induire le public en erreur sur son caractère ou sa signification, notamment lorsqu’elle est susceptible de ne pas apparaître comme une marque de garantie ou une marque collective.

6- Motifs de déchéance supplémentaires liés au règlement d’usage

Qu’elle soit de garantie ou collective, marque peut être attaquée en déchéance dans les 3 cas suivants (en plus des autres motifs traditionnels de déchéance) :

  • Lorsque le titulaire ne prend pas de mesures raisonnables en vue de prévenir un usage de la marque qui ne serait pas compatible avec le règlement d’usage ;
  • Lorsque la marque est devenue, en raison de l’usage par les personnes habilitées, susceptible d’induire le public en erreur ;
  • Lorsqu’une modification du règlement d’usage l’a rendu non conforme ou contraire à l’ordre public. 

En résumé, si le régime des marques de garantie et collective semble plus souple d’accès en apparence, le diable se cache dans les détails qui seront pour ces types de marque dans l’établissement du règlement d’usage et le contrôle de l’exploitation des marques.

Pour autant, ces contraintes en font leur valeur spécifique. Il ne s’agit, pas, en effet, de marques commerciales traditionnelles : la marque de garantie a un objectif d’ordre public : la garantie de la conformité du produit et service par rapport à un référentiel. La marque collective garantit le plus souvent une origine géographique ou une qualité spécifique du produit ou service.

Découvrez aussi notre précédent article Marques collectives : la nouvelle donne de la loi pacte.

Collective/ Certification Trademarks : the new deal of the French “PACTE” law

Law No. 2019-486 adopted on May 22, 2019 known as “PACTE law” relating the growth and transformation of companies, reforms the very specific organization of trademarks formerly known as “simple collectives” and “certification collectives”.

Beyond a simple change in terminology which now distinguishes “collective trademarks” and “guarantee trademarks”, this is an upheaval on the subject of authorized holders: the guarantee trademark is no longer linked to the concept of certification on the one hand, individuals and companies are excluded from the collective trademark on the other hand.

Toning down for the first one, restriction for the other. But in both cases, vigilance must be put on the holders regarding the regulations of the use and exploitation of these trademarks. The reasons for rejection, nullity and forfeiture are numerous and are the same for both, thus creating a certain blur reinforced by the transposition methods that are making 4 types of trademarks coexist. Choosing one or the other is not without consequences and must be thought out seriously before being submitted.

Only available in French. Read here.

CHAMPAGNOLA – Another win for Protected Designation of Origin against evocation with respect to non-comparable goods and services

On 17 April, the Board of Appeal of the European Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) issued an important decision clarifying the extent of evocation in relation to a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). In this decision, the Board of Appeal upheld the Comité Champagne initial opposition and stated that the contested EUTM application CHAMPAGNOLA must be rejected for all the goods and services in Classes 30 and 40, because the sign represents an evocation of the PDO Champagne. The Board of Appeal points out that a PDO’s evocation may be characterized by similar trademark for similar or different products and services.

Only available in French. Click here to read.

General Court maintains strict approach to assessment of distinctive character

This article first appeared on WTR Daily, part of World Trademark Review, in (February/2020). For further information, please go to www.worldtrademarkreview.com.

On 5 February 2020 the General Court issued its decision in Hickies Inc v European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) (Case T‑573/18).

Background

On 5 July 2017 Hickies Inc (‘the applicant’) filed an application for the following three-dimensional (3D) trademark for goods in Class 26, including “shoe laces”:

The EUIPO examiner rejected the application on the grounds that it was devoid of any distinctive character. The applicant appealed to the Board of Appeal, which partially confirmed the decision for all products except “shoe eyelets” and “shoe hooks”. The applicant formed an appeal before the General Court.

Decision

The court first recalled that the criteria for assessing the distinctive character of a sign are the same regardless of the type of mark, including 3D signs. In order to have distinctive character, the sign must allow to identify the commercial origin of the products for which registration is sought. The only distinction with regard to 3D signs lies in the fact that the average consumer is not accustomed to presuming the origin of a product on the basis of its shape; therefore, distinctiveness may be more difficult to establish.

Nevertheless, the court stated that, according to case law, a shape mark should not refer to the shape of the product in order for it to have distinctive character: the more the shape resembles the product, the less distinctive it is. Therefore, the fact that a shape is a variant of a common shape for that type of product is

not sufficient to demonstrate the distinctive character of that mark: the difference must be sufficiently significant from the point of view of the relevant consumer.

In the present case, the court considered that the relevant consumer had an average degree of attention – contrary to what was claimed by the applicant, which considered that consumers possess a higher degree of attention in the domain of footwear. As such, the applicant considered that consumers would not perceive the 3D mark as a shoe-fastening system due to its novel character (in other words, it would not be recognised by the relevant public as such shape did not previously exist).

In order to render its decision, the court considered first shoe laces, and then the other goods covered by the application.

The court, considering the definition of ‘shoe laces’, concluding that they are intended to “bring both sides of the upper of a shoe closer together and to keep them attached”. Neither the materials used, nor the type of fastening system, enter into consideration: only the characteristic of maintaining both sides of a shoe attached must be taken into account. The court thus refuted the argument of the applicant, according to which the action of tying a shoelace was an essential characteristic in the determination of distinctiveness, as the mark did not depict such action. Consequently, the court found that the mark was not distinctive in relation to “shoe laces”, as it did not allow for the identification of the commercial origin of the goods.

Regarding the rest of the products covered, the court considered that the same assessment applied as these products designated a system for fastening shoes. Indeed, these goods were simply variants of a shoe-fastening system. Therefore, the sign was devoid of distinctive character for these goods as well.

Finally, the court confirmed that, even though the sign could be used for goods other than those covered by the mark, this could not be taken into account in the determination of the distinctive character of the mark. Only the goods or services covered must be considered.

In light of the above, the court rejected the appeal for all the goods applied for.

Comment

From a practical standpoint, the decision serves as a reminder that new evidence should not be submitted for the first time at the final stage of the proceedings, as it is not the court’s function to assess facts in light of newly-submitted materials. Parties should keep this in mind when progressing through proceedings before the EUIPO and the court.

With regard to the substance of the case, the decision highlights that a 3D mark must be represented in a manner that is far removed from the products covered to avoid being considered as descriptive. The decision follows the general case law of the court, which continues to adopt a strict position concerning the examination and determination of distinctive character.

Therefore, applicants would be advised to file their trademark applications in broader terms and without specifying in great detail the products covered. This would avoid possible complications and challenges by the EUIPO arising from a highly specific wording.

Finally, it should be borne in mind that, in similar cases, a design application may be a better option than a 3D trademark application, as there would be no analysis of the distinctive character and such application would be more difficult to challenge on the basis of a design.

 

GALLO at the receiving end of the stone throwing

E & J Gallo winery is the owner of the European Union trademark Gallo for alcoholic beverages in class 33, registered in 1996.

This trademark was the subject of a claim of seniority of a French trademark of 1968.

The claim of seniority is an act enabling the owner of an EU trade mark to retain anteriority ? in national countries, while having the possibility not to renew the said national trade marks on their expiry date.

The Gallo winery company considering that the company Champagne Gallo was infringing its rights by using the Gallo sign, assigned  for infringement.

Reconventionaly, Champagne Gallo applied for the invalidity of the EU trade mark and the revocation for non use of the French trade mark

On 6 October 2016, the Commercial Chamber of the Court of Cassation retained:

That Gallo Winery is the owner of an EU trademark, whose seniority has been claimed, namely the French trademark not renewed at expiry in 1998, and not used since its registration in 1968.

That Champagne Gallo has been using the name Gallo as its corporate name and to market champagne since 1984,

That the French trademark claimed as seniority, continued to produce effects only as long as it was still in force.

That having ceased to be so (trademark not renewed at its expiry date + not used), the subsequent use of this trademark by Gallo winery no longer benefited the French trademark but only the EU trademark subsequent to the acts of use of the Gallo champagnes !

 

Finding himself at the receiving end of the stone throwing, GALLO winery loses its French trademark for non-use and, its EU trademark due to previous rights of use of Champagne Gallo!

Lessons learned from this decision:

– On the one hand, it is not necessary to claim seniority of a national trademark that is not exploited and can be revoked (because as a risk of retroactive revocation, this results in loss of seniority)

– On the other hand, it is necessary to monitor one’s trademark and avoid third parties slipping between the rights (here Gallo would have had to see the registration of Champagne Gallo, exploit its French trademark at least for the purposes of the case and then act)

– Finally, we must carefully choose the right moment to start hostilities!

Morality the devil often hides himself in the details and, when it comes to brand use, everything is often a question of detail!

 

Céline BAILLET European Trademark Attorney-INLEX IP EXPERTISE